#Rebel Selves, a large project that comprises a series of still and moving image self-portraits, a smartphone app, and a participatory installation that critiques idealised heteronormative gender expectations in selfies and portraiture.
The #Rebel Selves installation is something between a stage set for an absurdist play, a hall of mirrors, and an exploded 3-dimensional photograph. Masks, garments and props scatter the space, inviting visitors to play different characters. It critiques the norms that are common in selfies and self-portraiture. Selfies are an important form of self-expression because they enable marginalised people not represented on mainstream media platforms to be visible. Sharing and commenting on selfies creates online communities, enabling self-esteem building support and validation. However, they are often constrained by binary gender and other beauty ideals. Research shows that bodies that are marginalised in terms of race, gender, sexuality, size and disability, experience hostility online. This may prevent them from receiving the benefits of being visible and building communities on social media. Therefore, it is important to find ways to participate online while reducing their potential exposure to negative comments and experiences. #Rebel Selves explores creative methods that could be used when taking selfies in order to avoid some of these problems.
The project aims to enable exhibition visitors and workshop participants to collectively develop a visual and gestural language for queer selfies. In producing performative spaces in which participants can queer selfies, I also hope to enable communal selfie taking that moves away from the notion of the self-contained individual towards representations of people in relation to others.
#Rebel Selves is supported by project grants from Arts Council England, The Elephant Trust and Leeds Arts University.